The Best VST Plugins for Noise Reduction
By Seamus Islwyn
Even if your recording technique is flawless and your equipment is in top condition, unwanted noise often appears in digital audio recordings. Re-recording the audio is, of course, an option; however, re-recording is time-consuming and may not always be possible. Instead, try using a noise reduction VST plug-in on the vocal track to remove unwanted noise. Compare the different features of various noise reduction VST plug-ins and decide which is the best for your needs.
The Waves Restoration VST bundle contains five noise reduction plug-ins, each with unique functions. The Z-Noise plug-in is an all-purpose noise reduction VST effect, while X-Noise is designed to remove constant background noise from a recording. X-Hum focuses on reducing electrical hum, while X-Click and X-Crackle remove the pops, clicks and crackles that are often present on digitized vinyl recordings. Waves also offers the W43 noise reduction VST effect, which is modeled on the Dolby CAT 43 hardware noise suppressor, separate from the Restoration bundle. All of the Restoration plug-ins are also available individually.
Sonnox Restore incorporates three noise reduction VST effects -- Oxford DeClicker, DeBuzzer and DeNoiser -- into one plug-in. You can enable or bypass any of the three effects, depending on your needs, and adjust each plug-in's control individually. The DeClicker plug-in allows you to apply its noise reduction effects selectively; this allows you to leave parts of the audio unaltered while repairing the rest. DeNoiser includes a "warmth" parameter; adjust this control to "fill in" some of the frequency spectrum that disappears when you apply noise reduction to a piece of audio.
The iZotope's RX noise reduction software includes a full set of specialized noise reduction tools. In addition to the standard noise and click reduction plug-in, iZotope RX includes a spectrum analyzer and spectral repair tool; these components let you visually check for and remove noise from an audio track. The "Deconstruct" component allows you to separate audio into signal and noise, then alter each separately. RX comes in both standalone and VST plug-in versions; the "Spectral Repair" feature in the VST version requires a digital audio workstation that supports offline processing.
The SoundSoap 2 VST noise reduction plug-in uses an intuitive graphical interface to control its parameters. As you adjust the noise reduction controls, the plug-in displays a visual representation of the original audio on the left-hand side of its "Wash Window"; a representation of the processed audio appears on the right-hand side. This feature allows you to easily see the degree to which the plug-in is altering the audio. SoundSoap also includes a "Preserve Voice" setting for vocal tracks which ensures that the noise reduction plug-in does not alter the character of the recorded voice.
Seamus Islwyn has been writing for radio, print and online publications since 2003, covering subjects from independent Canadian music to automobile smuggling in the Balkans. His work has appeared in the "Tirana Times" in Albania, and he also composes and produces electronic music. Islwyn holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from McGill University and a certificate in radio broadcasting from Humber College.